Revival Of The Depopulated Village Of Ad-Damun

we cannot remember without architecture
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Designer(s) : Deena Abu Shamlih & Mariam Al Wahsh

University : Al-Quds University

Tutor(s) : Dr Maha Samman

What makes a place memorable? Is it activity, rituals and experiences, significance, or design? Is memory associated with the difference between dwelling and building, or is our subconscious constantly looking to connect what our forefathers saw in the past with what we see now?

The relation between Architecture and memory is dialectic. As John Ruskin (1849) said: “we cannot remember without architecture.” Memory also gives architecture a significant meaning and allows for greater connection between generations. Hence, the place becomes more of substance than spectacle, consolidates the connection with the past and nourishes its identity.

Our project is based on reviving the essence of memories that Palestinian refugees of Ad-Damun expressed and aspire to convey to the generations for years to come. These memories obtained through interviews, calls, videos, and research were classified into:

  • Pre-depopulation societal memories of everyday life express the customs of the villagers, and their struggles and hardship during and following the Nakba.
  • Spatial memories express the prominent places relevant to the people’s stories.
  • Memories of experiences expressing the interactions of Ad-Damun refugees individually and communally from the years before and after depopulation.

Analysis and interventions were based on the revival of this variety of memories mapped on a matrix (see sheet 1 of the project) to translate our concept into an architectural design. The spatial interventions were based on the Architecture of memory associated with the good memories of the prosperity of pre-Nakba Ad-Damun, the architecture of Dark tourism associated with the painful tragic events leading up to the catastrophic depopulation of the village, and Post-disaster reconstruction architecture for the revival of the whole village.

Urban Plan:

Interventions were based on different spatial scales starting with reviving the historical link between Ad-Damun and Acre city, its significance as the regional “food basket” and provider of light industries, and its original spatial mapping. Planning also aimed to serve the expected inhabitants now and the needs of additional local and international tourists.

The eastern part of Highway-70, where people originally lived, is planned as a multifunctional touristic story-telling central area (المحكى: Al-Mahka) and surrounded by a green buffer zone, followed by the new urban area including housing, public and private spaces. Providing all needed spaces for people to live in Ad-Damun today is balanced with the preservation of green and agricultural lands.

West of Highway-70; the Ad-Damun Plain, along Acre road, a recreation path that included tourist, recreational, historical, as well as light industrial and agricultural stations, was planned. These were based on old important attraction points and the significance of the site which includes the aviation and archaeological stations of Tel Kisan and Ain Daouk, the light industrial area of ​​Ad-Damun and the Na’amin River. The two banks of the river are proposed as a rehabilitated central park. The parks and hotels, services and transportation will support this path and serve its activities. 60% of the area is conserved as agricultural lands upholding this distinct identity of Ad-Damun.

The Spatial Distribution of the Story-Teller (Al-Mahka) area:

 Located in old Ad-Damun which encompasses memories of past prosperity; the daily trip to Al-Ain, weddings, occasions, religious tolerance, crafts and products that Ad-Damun villagers had in their homes and more, and the painful memories of the blowing-up of the village followed by expulsion along the path of turmoil and many stations of difficulty and humiliation. The two intertwined memories inform what the Storyteller area communicates.

Thus, the area starts from the still existing main street of Kabul to the east into a distribution area with a visitor’s centre and a reception area that has two axes:

  • An axis on a higher level represents the painful Nakba memories overlooking the other axis representing pre-Nakba everyday life. This signifies that despite the painful experiences within the first axis, there are always spots of hope for a better life; despite their painful lives, refugees shall always have hope in achieving their right of return. Thus, the first axis begins with a courtyard with a tower that symbolizes the visual and sound experience of the first explosion and is surrounded by scattered concrete monuments presenting information about the 20 Ad-Damun families, their fated places of exile and their martyrs and losses. The tower provides scenic views of Ad-Damun and the whole Story-Teller area. The tower is connected with a bridge that represents the five-month exile path with stations marking the important events that occurred during the exile journey with visual and other sensory effects. The bridge ends with an underground.
  • a museum within the hill without fixed exhibits where new generations of Ad-Damun artists can display their work. Museum exhibitions can use lighting from the upper courtyard openings. This is followed by an ascending hill to the woody terraces leading to the
  • landscape with steps connecting with the green areas around old Ad-Damun. These natural areas can be used for sitting and picnics. Another bridge leads to multifunctional cultural buildings within the new urban planned area of Ad-
  • The other axis is entered from Al-Ain Square, for reliving past events and festivals. Another connected courtyard bears the old memories including the site of the mosque; The first courtyard includes workshop spaces education and practical experiences followed by a playing area. The olive press area wraps around the remains of the old one and then the Hesba (Farmers Market) with Ad-Damun crops and products from the local industries and craft workshop area such as the Akkawi cheese, straw and other artefacts. The restaurant courtyard enhances the sensory experience, such as the smell taste and visual texture of Damunian dishes. An area with outer yard facades exhibits the achievements and memories of each family and followed by a youth club and a church. The area connects with the hill where the museum provides a meeting point between the two axes.

The old village structure was revived by distributing the courtyards and important sites while factoring in construction limitations in our buildings, and the architectural language takes into consideration Ad-Damun architectural imprint.